Minimum Viable Product — Key to Product Development

Vaitheeswaran K
Apr 22, 2014 · 4 min read

Let me start off with what I read from Wiki when I started reading on Minimum Viable Product (MVP) — In product development, the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a strategy used for fast and quantitative market testing of a product or product feature. The term was coined by Frank Robinson and popularized by Eric Ries for web applications.

Dilbert Comic Strip
Dilbert Comic Strip

One of the core philosophies which I have heard from start up founders is that “If you have to fail, fail early”. What do they mean by saying this? It simply means that you to have to test your product/service by assessing if it is inline with what the customer needs and is there a demand for the offering. It is not prudent to keep spending on your product if there is no real market to it.

From my view, the whole concept of MVP is to drive “If you have to fail, fail early”

MVP is a very powerful concept when evaluating products and when you are not sure on which feature to put your money on from a dozen or more options. In its most simplest form, a MVP could mean a clickable prototype which lets the users have a feel of what the app stands for and enables feedback mechanism. There are numerous examples of how large organizations like Dropbox, Zappos and others have explored MVP and have validated their concepts before spending additional $$ to build the product.

MVP as a concept is specialized by start ups (that is the way we hear it) — However, I strongly believe that it is something which can be applied for product development irrespective or organization size.

Let us speak about MVP in the context of first version launch. Here the concept of MVP will change based on what we are trying to build — In the case of a Web Application the users might be willing to explore early versions of the product whereas for Mobile Applications the users might not come back for a second trial and hence what is being built out has to be a polished version.

This is a case of you will get “One chance to succeed” as against “Many chances to fail”

Here are some of the most important questions one will need to answer for finalizing your MVP offering

How to identify what makes the MVP?

  • What differentiates your product?
  • How does your product stand against competition
  • Evaluate set of features based on “Feature Value” (customer ranking)
  • Evaluate based on time to market

How do you prove what has been built is useful — Apply the Lean Analytics model

  • Ideas → Build → Code → Measure → Data → Learn
Leanstartup.org

How do you test your MVP?

  • Customer Feedback
  • Metrics Evaluation

Identifying your MVP — Mobile App Development

Let me share one of my recent experience here — The team was building a mobile application for users to manage their food habits and understand how this impacts their health. The core of the application was various food types and an engine to map the impact to the customer based on consumption habits. The app gave users an indication of how their health would be impacted based on the food they consumed, this was the key differentiation and was core to the MVP.

However, just this key feature would not make the product complete — The question was what other features should we add to make the MVP complete.

Given that this is a case of launching an app for end customer — The model recommended here to arrive at additional features for MVP was to do a mapping of features from inspirational ideas, social sharing angle, competitor products and what worked for other applications.

# The first step was to put up the list of products we can use for the matrix and then to identify the salient features across both these product sets.

# The team then set out to map out the “Feature Value” preference — this was arrived at by understanding feature priority and perceived value of the same by end customers. For e.g. Social is a key element to any consumer product and hence the feature value for something like FB/Twitter Connect (Login) and FB/Twitter share will be very high in this context.

# Sorting out features by “Feature Value” and selecting the top five features using Feature Value made the MVP list.

Summary: MVP is a powerful concept and a very popular one also. It is imperative that people have to innovate to remain in business and fight competition. Hence, all organizations BIG or Small can apply concepts from MVP while launching their products and services. If there is a myth that MVP as a concept is applicable only for start ups then that is something which needs to be broken.

Foot Note: Review by Ashwin Ramasamy (ContractIQ)

    Vaitheeswaran K

    Written by

    Vaitheeswaran (Vaithee) is a seasoned management professional and has worked on challenging and complex web and mobile app development for F100 customers.

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